Project Lead

Professor Nicola Lautenschlager

Lead partner

The University of Melbourne


Melbourne Health; Northern Health; St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne

The interim report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health Services recommended that mental health practitioners should provide integrated care that promotes behaviour change and a healthy lifestyle. This project seeks to empower vulnerable older adults and mental health practitioners with strategies to implement PA guidelines. To overcome self-isolation, we will use information and communication technologies (ICT). Older Australians are highly connected (i.e. >85% internet access).

Direct engagement with vulnerable older adults will provide crucial information regarding PA knowledge, preferences, and needs. Based on this information, we will develop a flexible intervention via personalised PA prescriptions to enable behaviour change. Pilot data from a small study in Germany (Lautenschlager et al., unpublished) found that ICT is a feasible and acceptable approach to provide individualised information and support to members in the community, including older adults. We will also contribute to the current global effort to collect data on the impact of COVID-19 enforced self-isolation on mental health.

Using data from the engagement with vulnerable older adults via ICT, we will consult with opinion leaders, clinicians and academics to develop practice guidance material for mental health practitioners when promoting physical activity behaviour change via ICT.

People living with cognitive and mental health symptoms in mid-to-later life are a diverse, vulnerable group. PA offers significant physical, cognitive, and mental health benefits. Physical activity guidelines have been developed for this at-risk group; however, better tailoring of physical activity interventions is key to their effectiveness.

This pragmatic intervention explored the feasibility and acceptability of delivering a tailored physical activity program online to middle and older aged people who experience memory concerns as well as low mood, anxiety, or stress. The response from participants and clinicians who reviewed the program was very positive. Participants found the program useful and enjoyable. Almost all participants said they would recommend the intervention to family and friends.


This project is supported by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) as part of the Rapid Applied Research Translation program.

This research addresses significant knowledge gaps on how to empower older adults with mental health problems via ICT to engage in PA. The data generated will inform future implementation research aiming to support mental health practitioners and services to use ICT when engaging with vulnerable older adults in the community.


The project was shown to be highly feasible and acceptable, empowering participants to take charge of their physical activity with support of a coach and materials. More than 90% of participants intended to continue the PA program after completion, based on the stages of change measure.

This project will provide a template for exercise prescription for vulnerable groups. The findings of this project will support the progressive accumulation of knowledge to improve future interventions exploring physical activity for dementia risk reduction. It will also contribute to a greater understanding of new contextual influences related to COVID-19 associated social isolation for vulnerable groups.

  • IPA young researchers network presentation Nov 2020
  • Unimelb DOP research symposium presentation Dec 2020
  • AAIC poster abstract was published in Alz and Dem (Ellis et al) 2021
  • Paper 1 (reporting the model on which our intervention is based) will be submitted in September 2022